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Au pairs - childcare options

Au Pair - inexpensive childcare in your home

Posted: 23 August 2010
by Maria Muennich

Au pairs - cheap, convenient but be prepared to share

An au pair is usually a female foreign student who comes to the UK to learn English by living with a family and helping care for the children at the same time as studying.

An au pair may well not have any childcare qualifications, and the amount of experience in childcare than she has can vary considerably. She will require her own private room in your house, her daily board, and some pocket money each week (about £35 per week). Because of problems with Au pairs being taken advantage of in the past, the Home Office now regulates the hours they can be expected to work in a day, which is limited to five, and she must be allowed two days free in a week. An 'Au Pair Plus' is an au pair employed on a slightly different arrangement and can work for longer hours per day.

You can expect an au pair to do some light housework as well as helping look after your children and doing some babysitting.

Some au pair agencies offer a vetting service, and may include thorough police check and a careful reference check in this. But if you are using an agency then do check how they vet the au pairs on their books.


  • An au pair is a rather economical option as her board and lodging forms part payment and she only receives pocket money from you
  • An au pair can help with some light housework (but note that she doesn't take on responsibility for all the children's needs in the way a nanny does )
  • An au pair can often babysit in the evenings (and are already familiar to your children)
  • As the au pair lives in you may not need to take your children anywhere in the morning an pick them up


  • You will need to give an au pair her own private room and be prepared to share your house with somneone else
  • An au pair may well have no childcare qualifications and her experience in caring for children may be limited
  • An au pair is usually quite young (17 - 27), which you might not feel comfortable with
  • Both previous points mean that an Au pair isn't suitable to care for a very young baby
  • An au pair may not speak very good English, so you may have some communication problems
  • An au pair may suffer from homesickness and there may be other problems relating to being a long way from home for the first time
  • You will need to set out clear groundrules for things such as how you need / expect her to help, how you communicate any problems to each other, visits from boyfriends, and use of the telephone.

Finding an au pair

You may be able to find an au pair through recommendations from friends and other parents, but otherwise the easiest way to find someone is through an au pair agency, which must be licensed by the government. They do, however, offer varying services, as well as requiring different fees, so do check out what their minimum requirements are for the au pairs on their books, as well as what checks they carry out.

Return to our guide to childcare.

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